Arrangements for child custody and support are generally finalized in a divorce settlement in Georgia. There can be times when you need to consider updating the terms of these orders. For a seemingly straightforward process, things can become confusing quickly. You could have a legitimate need to adjust your payments or custody plans, but mistakes can be punishing.
Learn more about the modification process for child support or custody in Georgia.
Why Would Child Support or Custody Need Changed?
It might sound cliched, but life happens. You could experience a significant disruption in your life, your standard of living could be affected, or you could be doing more to take on the load of caring for your children.
Georgia’s courts will consider allowing a change in child support payments or adjusting a parenting plan if there is a “significant change in circumstances” in either parent’s life. This could include being fired from a job or suffering a substantial injury.
If a parent’s capacity to pay child support or participate in child custody plans is diminished, a court will likely support adjusting their monthly payments.
If your ex may have remarried and now has the ability to pay more in child support, the judge reviewing your case may determine their change in circumstances is significant enough to warrant a change.
How to Modify Court Orders
Making an arrangement with your ex outside the legal system can have significant and long-term ramifications. It’s critical to get the change in custody or support documented and recognized by the legal system. As a result, anyone found not honoring the court’s orders for support or custody could face contempt of court. Learn more about the timeline and how to seek a modification.
Step One: Hiring A Legal Representative
Seeking to modify your child support or custody orders is not a simple matter. A judge will need to see evidence before they approve the adjustment. Finding a family law attorney with experience modifying court orders for child custody and support is crucial.
You need to find a lawyer who can give you honest advice on how to approach your situation and one who is ready to help you file the paperwork necessary to accomplish your goal.
Step Two: Prepare Your Documents
When you seek to change child support payment amounts or your parenting plan, you will be asked why the change is necessary. It’s best to be prepared. You and your attorney will gather supporting documents that can back your claim.
You can use the original support or custody order, proof of your income, proof of your ex’s income, childcare costs, medical paperwork, or anything that might show that the level of child support is inadequate or too expensive. You’re basically finding anything that will show a need for change.
Step Three: Filing a Petition to Modify a Court Order
Once you’ve discussed the matter with your attorney and made your goals clear, your attorney will file the necessary paperwork with the superior court in the county where your ex lives. If they live out of state, you can file it with your county’s clerk of courts.
Your ex will be served a notice that you are seeking to change a court order, and they’ll have a chance to respond with a counterclaim. There aren’t default judgments in a petition to modify child or custody orders, unlike other civil actions.
Step Four: Enforcing the New Order
There will be a hearing for all parties to provide their arguments supporting or disputing the need for modified court orders. Both parents can present their evidence to the judge. If the judge agrees with the custody or support change, they’ll approve the petition, and it will go into effect.
A change in support does not mean you’ll receive credit for previous payments. However, if your ex ignores the new order, they could be held in contempt of court.
If your petition is denied, you’ll have to wait two years before you can attempt to modify the orders again.
FAQs about Modifying Custody and Child Support Orders
Does Changing One Order Affect the Other?
Rulings on child support and child custody are separate matters, but there is a chance one can affect the other. Support payments are generally made to the parent with primary physical custody of the children.
Georgia law requires parents to care for their children. Orders are made for fair contributions from both parents; the parent not physically caring for the children is compensating for them by paying for their care. So if a change in custody is granted, a change in support might be approved.
However, you should discuss the matter with your attorney to ensure you are fighting for the best possible solution for you and your children.
What Information Do I Need in My Petition?
When you’re filing your petition to modify child support, you’ll need your personal information, your ex’s information, and details about your child’s life. You’re providing the court with information that highlights the change in circumstances after the original support order was made.
Do I Need to Hire a Family Law Attorney?
Although it’s possible that you can handle most legal matters alone, it isn’t recommended. Not only are you fighting for a change in your life, but you’re also trying to make a change in your child’s best interest. You need to make sure every avenue is covered. Hiring a lawyer who can show why the modification is necessary can save trouble down the road.
Get Help Modifying Your Child Support or Custody Order Now
Changing a court order is not a simple task. When you can only apply for a modification every two years, it’s essential to have all the information necessary, along with the petition correctly completed. You need a Georgia family attorney who understands what’s at stake and is ready to help you accomplish your goal.
The Gentry Law Firm, LLC, is ready to hear your needs and help you get the modification you need. Your family’s wellness and future are our top priorities. We understand how daunting dealing with court can be, especially if you were recently divorced. We have helped countless clients with their family law needs, and we’re ready to hear your case.